Using Google Wave in the Enterprise

When Google (s goog) launched Wave last year, it was immediately obvious that it would be useful for collaboration. What was less obvious, however, was whether it would be a good choice for enterprise-level collaboration. Google’s tool takes a simplistic approach; when it comes to managing teams and projects, bells and whistles can be reassuring.

Now, though, many businesses and organizations are using Google Wave as their main collaboration tool. While it hasn’t proven itself to be the perfect tool for every company, Google Wave is certainly a good option for many teams, especially those who don’t have a lot of opportunities to interact in person.

Google Wave in Action

Jared Goralnick, the founder of AwayFind, uses Google Wave to manage his distributed teams. Goralnick decided to use Wave because his teams need real-time collaboration: “I’ve used wikis and emails for a long time, and I still do use them. Wikis do a better job with creating multi-page hierarchies and generally are better at portraying the final product of content creation…but they fail at synchronous editing, and don’t work very well for discussions. And email will always fill a role with both its ubiquity and low-tech nature. But I needed something that was more real-time and did a better job capturing not just information but how information was created. Something where discussion could become a finished product without having to open up a Word document and switch gears into ‘Now I’m writing a final paper’ mode.”

Wave definitely has a different approach from many collaboration tools, if only because of its reliance on search to go back and look at past projects and information. It may not be able to handle every aspect of your collaboration process, but it is easy to team up with other tools. In Goralnick’s case, Google Wave’s key use is as a discussion tool: “We have numerous discussions in Wave. When discussions turn into specifications or other material we want to really hold onto, we embed it into our Trac (wiki) knowledgebase. Tagging it in Wave also helps us to find things later.”

The Key Function of Google Wave

For many teams, the clearest benefit of using Google Wave is ease and speed of communication. It can, of course, handle sharing files and other tasks. But discussion is where it shines: The simple ability to have a real-time conversation that you can search later is particularly useful.

It’s also important to see Google Wave within the contexts of the various other web applications Google offers. While as a standalone tool, Google Wave’s abilities can’t match those of Basecamp, for example, when you pair it with Google Apps for Business, it can become a complete enterprise-level solution. Wave also works well with other tools, as Goralnick notes: “Before, I used PBWorks, Basecamp, and Trac — three tools that didn’t talk to one another. Now I can embed my Waves on Trac!”

Are you using Google Wave in your business? How are you getting on with it?

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Report: The Real-Time Enterprise